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Nearly 3,000 elementary students in schools across Butler and Lowndes​ counties experienced birds of prey on a personal level when a van full of raptors visited their school. The Alabama Cooperative Extension's 4-H and other local sponsors brought the Coosa River School of Science birds of prey program, called Raptor Trek, to nine elementary schools to teach students about raptors and the importance of preserving their habitats.

Raptor Trek at the Coosa River Science SchoolRegional Extension Agent, Carla Elston says she wanted to bring the Raptor Trek to Butler and Lowndes counties to help promote the appreciation and understanding of raptors to elementary students.

Experiencing falcons, hawks, owls and bald eagles up-close and personally is not a typical classroom experience," Elston says. "By providing educational awareness about the raptors, protective laws and preservation of their habitat, our youth understood the importance of environmental conservation and sustainability to promote a healthier ecological system for the birds of prey."

Raptor Trek Program Coordinator Becky Collier travels across Alabama with six raptors and five trained team members to give students an opportunity to interact with raptors.

The school programs lasted for approximately an hour. Raptor Trek members spent time with students teaching them about the large birds as a group, but students were also given opportunities to encounter the birds on a sensory level. The raptors in the program are accustomed to humans and made it easy for the students to observe every detail of feathers and talons from inches away–something that most students would never have the opportunity to do.

Elston says the opportunity to interact closely with the raptors was a mutually beneficial experience for students and the birds of prey.

"Being able to see the majestic size and beauty of the raptors provided a lasting effect that instilled admiration for the birds in the students," Elston says. "The Raptor Trek presentation provided visual learning that will help reinforce the lessons taught within the classroom."

For more information about Raptor Trek or to schedule a trip, visit The Coosa River Science School website.​